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An interview with Jerry Kedziora about the South Shore Yacht Club’s 2018 Queen’s Cup

by David Schmidt 18 Jun 2018 08:00 PDT June 22, 2018
Yachts compete at the South Shore Yacht Club's Queen's Cup © Image courtesy of Queen's Cup

The year that the South Shore Yacht Club (SSYC), located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, held their inaugural Queen’s Cup was 1938, but—interestingly—the trophy itself was already some 90 years old, having started its nautical life as the second-place “50 Guinea Cup” in a regatta conducted on the waters off of Cowes, England by the Royal Yacht Squadron (RYS) in 1853. American-flagged Silvie, a racing sloop flying the New York Yacht Club’s burgee, finished just six minutes and 38 seconds astern of Gaily, a yacht that proudly flew the Union Jack, delivering a performance that moved the RYS to create a prize for second-place.

The “50 Guinea Cup” traveled back to the NYYC and fell into the shadows, only to emerge in 1874 before drifting back into obscurity until the turn of the 20th century, when it was rediscovered and became a prized possession of one Walter Hull, who-in 1938-gifted it to the SSYC.

Hull’s one requirement upon deeding his prized cup was that it be used "for an annual race across Lake Michigan, always starting off South Shore Yacht Club, and ending at a point in Michigan, open to all yachts of a recognized yacht club on the Great Lakes."

And thus the SSYC’s Queen’s Cup began.

Today, the Queen’s Cup still follows this same great tradition of trans-lake racing and has become an area classic for boats and crews of all stripes.

I interviewed Jerry Kedziora, Commodore of the South Shore Yacht Club, via email, to learn more about the 2018 Queen’s Cup.

How many boats are you expecting on the starting line of this year’s Queen’s Cup, and how does this number compare to recent editions of this storied race?

The SSYC Queen’s Cup race annually attracts from 150 to as many as 200 boats. The numbers depend on the date of the race and where the finish port will be.

It can also depend on the competition. If boat XXX is racing the Queen’s Cup, a similar boat may decide to enter the race as well.

We have increased interest and participation by offering One Design divisions to boats such as T-Tens, J/105s, Beneteau 36.7s and 40.7s, J/111's, and opening up the race to boats using the ORR rating system.

We feel that [these] changes have increased interest. It's really thrilling to see One Design boats finishing within seconds of each other after racing 69 miles. For example, in the 2016 race we had three T-Tens finish within seven seconds of each other after racing 80 miles to St. Joe's.

Can you describe the crew composition amongst most boats? Are most boats comprised of families and friends, or are there a lot of ringers in the fleet?

The crew composition varies from family racers to a combination of family and friends to diehard race crews who have been racing the distance races like the Queens Cup Race for years.

So, yes, there are some ringers in the race and some sailing pros that race on the big-program boats.

Mostly though, the crews are a combination of family and friends with at least one person related to the skipper/owner.

If you were giving the “brochure overview” on this race to a new friend you just met at the YC, what would it sound like?

The SSYC Queen’s Cup is an overnight sail race across Lake Michigan with 150 to 200 boats competing for one of the oldest trophies in yacht racing.

Race week kicks off with the gathering of the fleet and two great parties at SSYC with as many as 1200 attendees. The race itself can be a sprint or a marathon. We’ve seen winds that result in both downwind runs and upwind battles.

But, nothing beats a clear night with a full moon. This year will be the 80th running with the start on June 22nd and the finish in Grand Haven, MI hosted by the Grand River Sailing Club.

How big of a role does local knowledge play on this racecourse? Also, any advise for first-time racers or out-of-town boats?

Since this is a distance race, local knowledge is not really a factor but experience is. As is making a good call on the weather, not only at the start but in the middle of the lake as you get offshore and as you approach the finish [from] maybe 10 miles out.

If it's a slow race and you're still racing after the sun comes up on the Michigan side, the wind usually dies for a while. Trying to "beat the sun" is sometimes a factor. Crews try and figure out if it's better to sail the rhumbline or go high or low of the rhumbline. The question is: How confident are the skippers and crew in the weather briefing?

What about weather? The Great Lakes are famous for their powerful thunderstorms—are these a factor in late June, or is this typically a July/August phenomenon?

Thunderstorms on Lake Michigan can occur almost any day of the summer months including June. And we have had some pretty good storms in June. I have been through some real dandies. Usually you can see them coming and plan for the storm.

One issue that may take a toll on crews is how cold will it be at night. I can remember doing some races in shorts and sweatshirt and a few races wearing ski pants.

What kinds of social events await the crews at the end of the 69 nautical-mile course in Grand Haven?

SSYC has one of the most famous parties on Lake Michigan the Thursday evening before the race. Two years ago, we started a new tradition with a party the Wednesday before the race as well.

SSYC's party on Thursday offers great food and music and dancing. The Wednesday party has a Caribbean theme with food from the islands and a steel-drum band.

The clubs that host the finishes of the race also offer great parties. In 2016 St. Joseph River Yacht Club went all out with great food and music, as did the South Haven Yacht Club after the 2017 race. Both clubs and just importantly the town’s people were great at welcoming racers and making all of the crews feel welcomed.

This year, Grand River Sailing Club will welcome racers and host a beer tent on Saturday. The City of Grand Haven has rolled-out the welcome mat. The bars and restaurants, most of which are within walking distance of the marina are looking forward to hosting crews for dinner and drinks. Plus, the Grand Haven Art Festival will be in full swing.

Can you describe any efforts that the race has made to reduce its environmental footprint or “green-up” the event?

The only comment I can make is the SSYC's Queens Cup Race committee enforces Rule 55 TRASH DISPOSAL. Over the last four years we have gone with more electronic documents reducing paperwork.

In addition, SSYC has been designated a green marina.

Anything else that you’d like to add for the record about the 2018 Queen’s Cup?

It's a great tradition for family and semi-pro crews. This is our 80th race and we have kept the race fresh by including scoring boats with ORR ratings, early starts offering free dockage, good communications and electronic entries. Plus, we have some great sponsors like Harken bringing their TECH trailer and North Sails providing a great and remarkably accurate weather briefing the morning before the race.

The last point is that many of the boats that race the Queens Cup use it as a great tune-up for the Chicago MAC race. And, for those boats that don't race the Chicago MAC, they enjoy doing at least one offshore distance race in their short season that is crew and family friendly.

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